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He had never been to an acting school or didn’t even know how films were made, but he knew that if he had to do anything in life, it would be in films, how it would be possible was not his concern because he knew that if he was destined to be a part of Hindi films nothing or no one could stop him.

Hari Kishen Goswami’s only knowledge about acting came from every film of Dilip Kumar he watched and it was the magic he saw the actor Dilip Kumar work that added strength to his ambition to be an actor like Dilip Kumar (there have been many others who have developed their ambition to be actors by watching Dilip Kumar act). Hari Kishen took a train, travelled in a third class compartment and reached Bombay in quest of his goal. He has been on his journey which has been a very exciting and enlightening experience during which he has seen all that he had dreamt of, met and worked with some of the greatest legends of Indian cinema, made a place of distinction for himself and is a legend himself today.

And just a few weeks ago, that young man Hari Kishen Goswami travelled to Delhi in a train in an air conditioned compartment, he could have flown to Delhi but he had stopped travelling by air way back in the eighties at a time when he was making “Purab Aur Paschim”. This time he was not the ordinary handsome Hari Kishen Goswami, this time he was Dr.Manoj Kumar, Padmabhushan and now the winner of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema. The journey had come full circle for him, but the determination to carry on contributing is as strong as ever at seventy-eight. He was on a wheelchair when receiving his award from President Pranab Mukherjee but his mind was younger than the minds of men half or even less than half his age. He made the occasion different when he presented the President with a mini marble statue of Gautam Buddha.

It was at this great moment of his life and career that I felt like going back to where he had begun his journey.

Hari Kishen realized that his name was too long and too solemn to be the name of an actor and changed his name to Manoj Kumar which was the name of his idol Dilip Kumar in one of his most memorable films.

Manoj Kumar started his career with some small films which have even been wiped out from history, but he came into his own with films like “Hariyali Aur Raasta”, “Himalay Ki Godmein”, “Woh Kaun Thi” and “Gumnaam”. He was gumnaam (unknown) any longer as he kept signing one big film after another, including a film called “Aadmi” in which he was thrilled to be teamed with Dilip Kumar and had the satisfaction to have faced the biggest challenge of his career.

Manoj was blessed with a creative mind and writing scenes and meaningful dialogue came to him easily and some of the best filmmakers and even writers sought his advice when they were stuck up with scenes and dialogue and among those who looked up to him for advice were the doyen of the south S.S.Vasan, Raj Kapoor and Raj Khosla.

It was in the early sixties that he worked as the leading man of a film based on the martyr Shaheed Bhagat Singh and called “Shaheed”. There were other names which went as the writers and the director of the film but all those who were witness to how the film was made knew and still talk about how Manoj Kumar was the man behind every action and move during the making of the film. It gave him the inspiration to write and direct his own film. It was during a function arranged to celebrate the success of “Shaheed” that Manoj met the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who asked him to make a feature film based on his own slogan, “Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan”.

Manoj went to work like a one-man battalion and succeeded in making a cult film called “Upkar” which was popular and successful not only in India but wherever Hindi films were seen… and still is.

He had become a filmmaker with a mission to give Bharat the image it had and deserved to be remembered by the generation during which the film was being made and for generations to come. He made one great patriotic film after another, films like “Purab Aur Paschim”, “Roti Kapda Aur Makaan” and the biggest film made on the theme of patriotism, “Kranti”. He made other films like “Shor” which was another kind of masterpiece, “Clerk”, “Shirdi Ke Saibaba” which added glory to the Saint from Shirdi and “Jai Hind – The Pride”.

His films have inspired several other filmmakers to make patriotic films and he can be called the pioneer of patriotic films, the kind of patriotic films many have tried to make, but not one of them from any generation or school has succeeded in awakening and arousing the feeling of being Indian like Manoj Kumar has done.

Manoj has also played the leading man who has specialized in fighting against all the evils in society and the country and among the films that come to mind with Manoj in these films in a class of their own are “Dus Numbri”, “Sanyaasi”, “Pehchaan” and others.

If I am asked personally I think he was the best as an all-rounder in the film “Shor” in which he played the father of a deaf and dumb son, a father who fights his own battle to bring back the voice of his son. The music of the film and performances by Nanda, Premnath and Master Satyajit were the highlights of a film which proved that silence was golden in a time when there was so much of noise (shor) all over the world, especially in Bharat (India).

Manoj has not been very active these last few years, but his passion for cinema is still as strong as ever and he is in touch with cinema of the golden era, of the times now when he feels films are not being made the way they should and must, he believes that only progress in technology is not the solution to make good and meaningful films, he believes that it is only a good story developed into a good screenplay and embellished with meaningful dialogue and melodious music can make good films and as long as filmmakers don’t follow this simple formula, films will continue to fall flat on their faces and the audience which is growing more and more aware will keep rejecting films made by men and women who do  not have their hearts and their minds in the films they make…

Manoj may not sound as physically active as he should have been, but he has a mind that keeps working overtime and he has his sense of optimism very much alive for himself, for the industry, for every Indian working in every field of life and for India who he believes will grow into a country as great as it was during those great times but only if we had the right kind of leaders who would have the ability to lead Indians in the right way and help them walk into a future which would awaken other countries to a truly mahaan Bharat.

It is generally the people of the country they belong to who should always be grateful to the country of their birth, but here is a man who is genuinely known as Mr.Bharat who not only every Bharatiya but Bharat herself should be proud of.

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